Coot Club (Swallows & Amazons #5) by Arthur Ransome
Publication: David R. Godine Publisher, Paperback, 352 pages / ISBN 9780879237875
Genre: Fiction, Children’s
Find @ Amazon or IndieBound
Read: September 2009
Series: Books #1-4
I know! I didn’t know what a coot was, either. It sounded vaguely dirty, and possibly hilarious in the same way that Titty’s name was hilarious in the first book. But actually it’s a kind of bird, sort of in the duck area I guess? Don’t be fooled, though– Coot Club is less about coots and more about the kids who are members of it. The D’s (Dorothea and Dick, first showed up in Winter Holiday, remember?) are in it as well, and really nifty older lady who I adore.
Coot Club is basically in two viewpoints: the D’s, who are on holiday and trying to learn to sail, and Tom, who’s on the run from some snobs after surreptitiously moving their boat one night in order to save some coot eggs (the snobs were blocking the nest and refused to move). Unfortunately, the D’s have no-one to teach them, and Tom is on the run from the snobs after they post wanted posters regarding his escapades against them. Luckily, the D’s and Tom meet and end up helping each other out: Tom agrees to go along with the D’s on their boat and teach them to sail, and as a bonus he gets away from the snobs long enough for them to hopefully cool down (or leave the Broads).
This is a coot, btw.
The story is somehow both relaxing and terribly exciting. Tom is chased all throughout The Norfolk Broads by the snobs (which he calls the Hullabaloos), and while they give the snobs the slip several times, it’s obvious that they’ll catch up sooner or later. So while the D’s are trying to figure out which side is starboard and which is port, and while they cruise up and down the river and go through locks and under bridges and even when they crash on a sandbank, there’s a very tense feeling running throughout the story. But the descriptions of the river and the animals and birds are so lovely that I couldn’t help feeling relaxed and dreamy, as well. It’s a very divided book!
I liked Tom, the other members of the Coot Club (like the twins nicknamed Port and Starboard), and Mrs Barrable, the older lady who takes in the D’s for a few weeks. I was kind of wishing the Coot Club would come back in another book, but I’m pretty sure they don’t. At any rate, they’re a lovely alternative to the Swallows and Amazons, since I’m pretty sure that I wouldn’t be able to read a book with just the D’s in it. They’re nice, but too city-bound and too dreamy without anyone else to balance them out.
Anyway, the ending is most satisfying, and I don’t want to give you any hints because it’s so delicious that I think you’ll appreciate it better if you know nothing about it. So, read the book, read the ending, then come back and tell me: did you squeal in happiness like I did?
Get your own copy from Amazon or your favorite indie bookstore.
Other reviews: Cerebrate’s Contemplations
Photo from Wikipedia.